In a town with iconic restaurant’s like Packo’s, Mancy’s and Schmucker’s, another venerable food deity begs to make the list of treasured stops: the Green Lantern Diner.
If you haven’t heard of it, you don’t know Toledo. If you haven’t visited it recently, you’re missing out. And if you’ve heard of it, but never noticed it when driving down Broadway – well, it is tiny.
Bucking the trend
Green Lantern does the nostalgic, classic diner very well. It’s been family owned and operated since opening in 1927 near the train (and now bus) terminal, Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza.
Serving classic American food, the Green Lantern has sustained their brick and mortar with tradition. “This is the oldest diner in Lucas County, and it’s never changed the food,” said Moe Habbouche, owner, who took over the operation in 1989 from his father-in-law, leaving the menu untouched. And that’s the reason for his restaurant’s longevity, which is no secret to its steady stream of regulars, says Habbouche: “You’ve got to be friendly with the people, and you’ve got to respect them. Don’t add, don’t change, don’t do anything to it. I’ve seen so many (restaurants) go out of business who can’t do those things.”
Eat it or go hungry
There’s plenty of traditional fare on the menu, and that’s a good thing. Anyone who frequents diners expects predictability. Lantern’s made-fresh-to-order goodness eschews heat lights and warming trays.
Finding it hard to totally abandon my health-nut convictions, I took great pleasure in meeting my sensibilities halfway, with a chicken sandwich, while my cohort feasted on a classic hamburger and fries — reminding me that sometimes it’s okay to indulge.
The menu carries its share of cleverly-named sandwiches— such as the Handy-Andy (double cheeseburger deluxe) and Humpty Dumpty (double sausage deluxe)– two of its most popular sandwiches, according to Habbouche .And a quick stop for one of its smooth, thick milkshakes would make anyone’s dull afternoon at work instantly tolerable.
On the right track
In fact, the diner’s name has nothing to do with the superhero, but rather the lanterns once used as railroad communication signals, which is fitting, given its locale. Habbouche has one on display, along with his pride in Toledo, which he shares verbally or through the numerous skyline pictures on his walls.
Habbouche, a bit of a local celebrity as a regular on Denny Schaeffer’s Star 105 morning show every Monday, has helped his diner with the notoriety. However, he’s always enjoyed strong customer support from nearby downtown workers, as well as every Toledo mayor since Donna Owens in the ‘80s.
If you want to visit, you’ll have to do it over breakfast or lunch— Habbouche purposely limits his hours on the noble premise that “money isn’t everything, and evening is family time.”
So, take heed should your magic ring power you down Broadway, because Green Lantern delivers firmly on all the diner super powers you deserve: excellent food, fair prices and friendly service.
Green Lantern Diner, 509 Broadway St.
419-241-3752. open Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-2 p.m.